Podcast #75 – Restoring University Avenue Parking with Chris Ferguson

university avenue parkingThe podcast this week is a conversation with Chris Ferguson, a University Avenue business owner who is leading the charge on re-adding on-street parking to the street as it runs through Saint Paul and Minneapolis. As you probably know, University avenue is home to the green line light rail line, the Twin Cities’ most recent and most successful transit project.

When they built the train, the planners removed the vast majority of the on-street parking which has made it more difficult for small businesses that don’t have their own separate parking lots. Ferguson and his group, Parking Possibilties MSP, is doing a study and a survey aimed at putting parking back on the street in places and narrowing the road to a smaller configuration. We sat down this week at the Cupcake café in Prospect Park to talk about his project.

The link to the audio is here. Please take a minute to fill out the survey. The more feedback they get, the better the case they’ll be able to make.

12 thoughts on “Podcast #75 – Restoring University Avenue Parking with Chris Ferguson

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Totes have not listened to the audio left, but I will. This is probably in there, but what happens to bikes under this scenario? A four-lane road with no parking means a well-positioned bicyclist will face relatively little harassment, and can move safely and efficiently to their destination. But blocking 100% of motorized traffic with no easy way to pass is another matter entirely. Is there room for bike lane and parking side by side?

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        What street has more direct access from downtown Minneapolis? University (although it’s terribly slow during rush hour) has the benefit of plenty of space for passing, very long reach (Blaine to downtown St. Paul), and favorable traffic control. The only streets to the north that have even close to as good traffic control are Pierce Butler Route and Energy Park Stroad. Both are shorter in length, and Energy Park is probably equally unpleasant to bike on for casual cyclists.

  2. Keith Morris

    I bike on University Ave infrequently. When I do it’s most likely a short stretch and I like that currently cars can change lanes to pass. With parking added to both sides there’s nowhere for cars to pass. I’m an able-bodied male who can bike 20+ MPH and maintain a good pace for a while, but for those who for whatever reasons are more limited in their physical capability to maintain a speed closer to driving are more closely moving at jogging speed and that does make motorists much more hostile.

    Why no mention of bikes? Is St Paul a suburb? (Short answer: yes.) It’s perfectly possible to accommodate both parking for *cars* and a separated two-lane bikeway. Keep in mind that parking for bikes is currently abysmal on University Ave and should also be a topic of conversation,

    We’re in a very, very unique situation where we can add car parking while also adding bike lanes without losing a single parking space, simply because they aren’t there now. Once you put parking on both sides and try to add bike lanes after the fact then people will be up in arms that half of all parking would have to be sacrificed on one side of the entire stretch. Now is the time to add bikeways while it’s easy to make a case for it. Designate the south side for parking where the right hand lane is and on the north side two-way protected bike lanes. Motorists get infinitely more parking than they have now on University and likewise cyclists will have infinitely more bikeways to traverse University and would be the only major east-west bikeway in the area.The Charles Ave bike boulevard dead ends into an industrial area which then drops you off at University Ave anyway, so might as well put in bike lanes there to make that bike boulevard more useful.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I actually choose University whenever I’m biking with someone else, as it’s much easier to ride abreast using a single general travel lane than it is to do so in a bike lane, one person on the shoulder/bike lane, the other on the right edge of the travel lane. I definitely do not agree with Bill’s assertion that “nobody bikes on University Ave now”. It’s not a preferred route, but with so many Midway destinations on University, of course there are bikes. Many are on the sidewalk, but they are on the corridor.

      I don’t see why parking and bike lane should be mutually exclusive. It’s presumably two 11′ lanes plus 1′ reaction distance on the left lane and 2′ on the right. So, 13′ between the current center lane marking and curb face. That’s enough room for 7′ parking and 6′ bike lane. (Or even better, 8′ parking and 6′ bike lane, reducing door zone risk, with the remaining travel lane narrowed.)

    2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      The pragmatic answer is that Chris and his group aren’t calling for a one-lane street along the entire stretch, but just in the (probably 50-60%) of the street where traffic volumes will allow it. (That is, pending results of the study.) A broken up discontiguous bike lane isn’t much use, unless it connects to other things. (E.g. it would be great at the railroad bridge chokepoint.)

  3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    A good comparison of biking with no passing option versus four lane is Lyndale Avenue. Even with more traffic north of Lake, I find that much more pleasant for biking on than the portion between 31st and 38th. The northern portion has plenty of room to pass bikes, and the outer lane is narrow enough and close enough to parked cars that it’s easy to control. Between 31st and 38th (although it’s very attractive), you can either squeeze by completely in the door zone, or control the lane and make all traffic wait behind you for 1-7 blocks.

    I don’t think University has to be like 31st-38th Lyndale, but I do want to emphasize how unpleasant and dangerous a divided 2/3-lane can be without bike accommodations.

  4. Nathanael

    All the through traffic was dumped into the I-94 traffic sewer anyway, so I don’t see any reason why University needs two moving lanes in each direction. I’d make a point of adding truck parking / loading zones, however — if you just put in ordinary car parking everywhere, you get double-parked trucks, which are bad.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      This is a bit like how I feel. The priority on University should be increasing foot traffic as much as possible, and I’m agnostic about how we get there. Slowing down cars is a great start, though.

  5. Keith Morris

    A dedicated bikeway along all of University where it’s two-way would increase foot traffic. And you can accommodate parking for many times more bikes than cars. A couple of bike corrals perhaps?

  6. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Is there any information available on how many of various businesses customers drive from within 1, 3, or 5 miles (e.g., walking/bicycling distance and thus how many might be convertible to an alternative rather than driving and parking)?

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